February 28, 2005, 12:00 AM

Zoom, Zoom

(Page 3 of 3)

Rather than video, a next logical step at least for Ballard is the silhouetting of product photos so the furniture can be "virtually" arranged in customers` rooms, Hansen says. "If you know your room size, you`ll be able to arrange the furniture online in your room before you buy it," she explains.

Consumers would be able to create a template of their rooms, mark off where their doors and windows are, and use scaled images of Ballard`s furniture that they would be able to drag onto their digital pictures on Ballard`s site. "We`ve had discussions with RichFX about this," Hansen says. l

Paul Miller is a Somers, N.Y.-based freelance business writer.

Coach`s `virtual` dressing room

Although it`s been seven years since Lands` End introduced its My Virtual Model feature, few retailers have duplicated the apparel cataloger`s online virtual dressing room. But in spring 2004, handbag retailer/manufacturer Coach Inc. launched a virtual dressing room of its own called "Try This Bag On."

Although Coach.com divisional vice president Ron Offir won`t reveal how much the feature has helped drive online sales, he says, "It has become one of the more popular features on our handbag web pages." What`s more, he adds, "We feel good enough about it to continue to reinvest in it."

On its site, Coach has created a silhouette of its bags, giving shoppers the ability to indicate how tall they are and place the bag in a model`s hands, sized to scale. "It gives her a better sense of scale," Offir says. "A lot of shoppers don`t get a good sense of dimensions--they can`t visualize online or in print catalogs how low a bag will hang on their hands or shoulders. This function allows them to virtually try the bag on for a minimal expense to us."

Using proprietary software designed by web development firm Organic, Coach brainstormed the idea internally as part of "our constantly striving to replicate the in-store environment online," Offir says. "This gives shoppers the opportunity to understand where a bag would hit them on their body."

What`s more, many Coach bags come in small, medium or large sizes. So the feature "helps show how a style of a product sizes up, allowing shoppers to compare, say, small to medium versions of our bags," Offir says.

Offir says that Coach plans to continually update the bag scalers so customers can try on the latest bags on the site. "Because we`ll have roughly the same number of handbag styles every year, I expect our costs will remain relatively flat," he says. "But we feel very strongly that it has improved the customer experience on our site and helped sales."

Paul Miller is a Somers, N.Y.-based freelance business writer.

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